Stellar cool-climate wines, seasonal local produce given a serious gourmet spin and even happiness in bowl - no wonder this the Adelaide Hills region is a breakout star of the dining scene. 

Though barely 20 minutes from the South Australian capital, the Adelaide Hills feels a world away from the suburban plains and grid-like arrangement of the CBD. Here, winding roads trace the undulating hills, while thick bushland pauses only for patchworks of orchards, vineyards and pastoral land. Many of the towns have a charming European feel, thanks to the early Prussian and English settlers who made this home from the late 1830s. But it was pioneering winemakers who really put this region on the map, tagging it an ideal spot for growing grapes – particularly varietals like pinot noir, chardonnay and shiraz – when they arrived in the 1970s. And while wine is what the Hills are still most famous for today, some new arrivals seem set to shake that up – acclaimed chefs and producers, who are busy driving the region’s reputation as a gourmet destination. 

Summertown Aristologist

“We had to buy a few leeks from a mate’s farm recently,” says Tom Campbell, co-head chef at The Summertown Aristologist. “But otherwise we’re pretty self-sufficient.” Campbell and Ethan Eadie are behind an everchanging blackboard menu at their acclaimed eatery, where they share duties in the kitchen as well as in the gardens that supply most of the produce for veg-heavy dishes supplemented by sustainable proteins. While it’s an easy 30-minute drive from Adelaide to this destination restaurant, you’ll want to spend time checking out Campbell and Eadie’s favourite haunts in the region.

For kangaroo schnitzel: The Scenic Hotel

“A classic watering hole right up on the Norton Hill summit, this is where you go for sunset views and kangaroo schnittys. After a recent renovation it’s gone from a local hang to something more special. From one of the outside tables, it’s epic watching the sun set behind Adelaide city in the distance and they have live music from local acts most weekends. The menu has things like oysters and fried chicken but the ’roo schnitty with peppercorn gravy is my pick. If you’re lucky, the resident koala will be sitting in the tree above you.”

For coffee and toasties: Brid

“The owner is a Kiwi so the name is a joke about how he says ‘bread’. It’s a little shop (176 Piccadilly Road, Piccadilly) where you can get fantastic sourdough – there are a few different loaves on the go every day – plus things like apple pie, these amazing bran and chocolate biscuits and a couple of toasties. I always smash a kimchi toastie. And they serve the best coffee in the Hills.”

For the dry-aged duck: Lot.100 Restaurant

Lot 100

“It’s a big venue just outside Nairne where a collective of breweries and distilleries have come together to do their thing. You can sit in the courtyard with woodfired pizza and antipasto but the 40-seat restaurant inside has Shannon Fleming, who was head chef at Orana, doing a multi-course set menu lunch using all Adelaide Hills produce. He does a beautiful dry-aged duck and incorporates wild and native ingredients in subtle ways.”

For Jericho Wines Adelaide Hills Fiano: Hügel Wine Bar & Kitchen

Hugel Wine Bar and Kitchen

“The owner, Josh Kleemann, is a bit of a one-man show and a complete legend. He opened his place in an old bank building in Lobethal and keeps things simple serving funky local wine, like Jericho’s Fiano, and uncomplicated plates of food. There’s a fresh tomato dish with basil, balsamic and fried garlic that’s awesome.”

For authentic paella: Comida Hahndorf

Comida Hahndorf

It used to be at the Adelaide Central Market and moved up here to the Hills to a place in Hahndorf with a huge garden. A Spanish-inspired casual dining spot, it’s good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s famous for its authentic paella and you can expect lots of jamón. An absolute standout in the Hills.”

For bánh mi pizza: Lost in a Forest

“This is a little gem in Uraidla that’s perfect for late afternoon if you’ve been rolling through the Hills all day and want somewhere to chill for a bit. It’s in an old stone church – the kitchen is where the altar used to be – and you can also sit outside under the trees. Just order a pizza, a can of beer or a natural wine. They get a bit interesting with the pizzas – there’s a bánh mi one with the toppings of a Vietnamese roll, including marinated pork, crackling and pickled vegetables that goes well.”

SEE ALSO: 5 Incredible Ways to Experience the Adelaide Hills

Still hungry?

Here are more of our favourite places to eat in the Adelaide Hills.

For breakfast: Fred Eatery

With its rich, full-bodied coffee and menu of tricked-up comfort food, this bright and contemporary café is your morning go-to. Daily blackboard specials keep the offering interesting but locals go into meltdown if staples like Frenchy French Toast and Happiness in a Bowl! (that’s barbecued pork belly, kimchi, chilli caramel and omelette with a pea and mint salad) disappear.

For a long lunch: Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard

This vineyard restaurant’s success comes down to three things: award-winning wines, an innovative seasonal menu overseen by ex-Ritz London chef Adam Bowden and expansive decks that overlook the vines of Lenswood. The five-course tasting menu, on offer from Thursday to Sunday, is excellent value.

For Asian fusion: Clover + Stone at Howard Vineyard

Howard Vineyard

The shaded deck at Howard Vineyard makes it an idyllic place to spend a Sunday afternoon, while the set-course lunch banquet ups the ante with a seasonal feast featuring dishes such as seared salmon tataki with wasabi mayo, crispy pork and kimchi dumpling, and beef salad with Vietnamese bun-cha dressing.
Lot 1, 53 Bald Hills Road, Nairne

For Japanese: Yuki in the Hills

A rollcall of authentic Japanese specialities shine at this Aldgate eatery: succulent handmade pork gyoza, crunchy bites of light tempura and regional hits such as okonomiyaki (savoury omelette-style pancakes). The real winner, though, is the fresh, precision-cut sushi and sashimi. Let the knowledgeable staff guide you through the selection of sake, local wines and highballs to accompany your meal.
2a Strathalbyn Road, Aldgate; (08) 7226 5767

For upscale pub fare: Crafers Hotel

The French-inspired bistro at the beautifully restored Crafers pub is always buzzing. Chef Stéphane Brizard, who took over last August, has made his mark with dishes “inspired by my childhood growing up on a farm”. Seasonal signatures include salmon coulibiac – a fish pie with mushroom, spinach and rice in puff pastry – and pan-seared veal fillet with king prawns, béarnaise sauce and pommes mousseline.
8 Main Street, Crafers

For high tea: Udder Delights

High tea at a cheesery? Trust us. Udder Delights, on the main drag in Hahndorf, serves one of the best high teas in the state. There’s a range of savoury and sweet morsels, such as goat’s curd and caramelised onion tarts and raspberry cheesecake, accompanied by a glass of local sparkling wine. In the fridges, pick up goodies to take away – cheeses, charcuterie, crackers, dips, olives, relishes and more.
91a Main Street, Hahndorf

For dessert: Red Cacao

The signature Chocolate and Coffee Experience at this chocolatier/café, tucked away in a Stirling laneway, functions as a mini tasting – or choose from more than 10 different hot chocolates, as well as cakes, pastries, waffles and other treats. Need something to bring home? The range of chocolates, truffles and pralines make excellent gifts.

For modern share plates: The Summertown Aristologist

When this low-key establishment opened in 2016, it quickly became a darling among the food set. The menu, overseen by chef Oliver Edwards, changes weekly and is both fiercely seasonal and highly local. Dishes read like a gastronome’s shopping list (broccoli, lardo, kimchi-roasted sunflowers; cavatelli, porcini, corn; snapper, coriander and last summer’s zucchini vinegar) and are full of flavour. A natural-focused wine list and communal tables complete the picture. 

Find Flights with Qantas Now

Start planning now

SEE ALSO: 22 of the Best Cellar Door Experience in Australia

Image credit: Josie Withers (Ethan Eadie and Tom Campbell of The Summertown Aristologist); Deon Wortmann and Reni van den Brandt (Hügel Wine Bar + Kitchen) Meaghan Coles (Comida Hahndorf).

You may also like